When it comes to running backs, I’m more excited when they lose weight. When they bulk up (to be better able to withstand the punishment and whatnot) that sometimes results in them not being as fast or elusive.

Ray Rice (before his problems) and Felix Jones come to mind as backs who spent too much time in the weightroom. They both played their best ball early in their careers, before they built themselves up into larger backs in hopes of increasing their power and durability.

LeVeon Bell, on the other hand, was listed at 244 pounds when the Steelers drafted him in 2013. He got a lot better after he trimmed down. They had him listed at 225 last year.

With this in mind, I’m intrigued by the news that Leonard Fournette plans to be about 11 pounds lighter this season. John Reid of the Florida Times-Union in a positional preview piece indicates Fournette is working hard to up his game.

″I feel like I play my best at that weight – 223, 224 – that’s what I played in college,″ Fournette said. ″Why not? I don’t want to be average. I want to be above average, be the greatest one to play this game. I feel lighter, quicker and I have a lot of my burst.″

Fournette scored on 90-and 75-yard touchdowns early last year, but too often his runs didn’t pick up enough yards – especially later in the season. In the second half of the year he averaged only 3.2 yards per carry, 2nd-worst among running backs with at least 60 carries. (There is no clean halfway point of the season, so for each player in the chart below, I’m looking at his team’s final eight games.)

YARDS PER CARRY (final eight games)
Alvin Kamara, N.O.684176.19
Jay Ajayi, 2 tm704085.82
Mark Ingram, N.O.1075835.48
Todd Gurley, LAR1186195.29
Dion Lewis, N.E.1226255.18
Isaiah Crowell, Clev.1045024.81
Kenyan Drake, Mia.1145504.84
Matt Breida, S.F.633024.82
Christian McCaffrey, Car.683184.75
Marshawn Lynch, Oak.1356254.65
Giovani Bernard, Cin.793554.52
Kareem Hunt, K.C.1265644.55
Wayne Gallman, NYG662944.50
Bilal Powell, NYJ1044564.43
Devonta Freeman, Atl.823534.33
Latavius Murray, Minn.1385934.37
LeSean McCoy, Buff.1385924.35
Joe Mixon, Cin.803424.32
LeVeon Bell, Pitt.1275314.26
Derrick Henry, Tenn.933874.23
LeGarrette Blount, Phil.732994.10
C.J. Anderson, Den.1295254.12
Jordan Howard, Chi.1144604.05
Jonathan Stewart, Car.883514.05
Orleans Darkwa, NYG1044063.94
Carlos Hyde, S.F.1284853.84
Melvin Gordon, LAC1535793.84
Alex Collins, Balt.1324953.86
Lamar Miller, Hou.1094053.72
Frank Gore, Ind.1515573.72
Jamaal Williams, G.B.1425223.75
Samaje Perine, Wash.1184283.61
Matt Forte, NYJ602173.63
Jerick McKinnon, Minn.812833.51
Tevin Coleman, Atl.933123.45
Leonard Fournette, Jac.1384443.23
DeMarco Murray, Tenn.892683.05

Reid’s article also points out that Corey Grant and T.J. Yeldon are expected to battle for the No. 2 running back job in camp. (I would expect that if Fournette is sidelined, both of those backs would play extensively.) “Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett could have bigger plans to utilize Grant more out of the backfield, especially on screen passes because of his big-play ability,” Reid writes.

—Ian Allan